The House On Mango Street: Characters
Esperanza is the narrator of the story and an adolescent Chicana girl who is trying to find her place in the world. She is intelligent and loves to read and write, which she knows will be her ticket out of the barrio. She is hopeful for the future, wants someplace to call home, and hopes to one day have a house that is just hers. She is already an advocate for women’s rights as she has seen many females exploited and abused in her neighborhood and wants to return to Mango Street someday to help the people there.
Nenny is Esperanza’s younger, prettier sister. Nenny understands Esperanza in a way that not many other people do, though Esperanza does not want Nenny to be her best friend.
Nenny is more immature than Esperanza and her friends and cannot participate in all conversations with them because she does not understand everything they talk about so she just ends up embarrassing Esperanza in front of Rachel and Lucy. Though Esperanza does not want to consider Nenny one of her friends, she is, in fact, one of Esperanza’s best friends.
Rachel and Lucy
Rachel and Lucy are the sisters who befriend Esperanza and ask her to chip in on buying a bicycle. The girls become fast friends with Esperanza and even her sister Nenny, though they do pick on Nenny a lot.
The girls have the same questions about adolescence as Esperanza and have fun trying to figure the answers out together. While Esperanza stays friends with Rachel and Lucy, she hangs out with them less when she finds more sexually experienced friends, like Sally.
Sally is the same age as Esperanza but seems much older as she wears makeup, short skirts, stockings, and is more sexually experienced. While Sally is not a good friend, as Rachel and Lucy are, Esperanza hangs out with her more because she seems glamorous.
Sally is always leaving Esperanza to go off with boys, one of those instances leading to Esperanza being sexually assaulted. Sally is beaten by her father, though she continues to live with him. She marries a much older man, despite the fact that she is just a child, and she pretends to be happy with him though he is abusive to her, as well.
Marin is a Puerto Rican teenager who lives in the neighborhood with her cousins, and she is responsible for babysitting them during the day though at night she hangs out with boys.
Esperanza is enamored with Marin because she dresses up and wears makeup and smokes cigarettes. She has a fiance back in Puerto Rico whom she says she loves, yet she dreams of an American man saving her from Mango Street and giving her a glamorous life. Her relatives eventually end up sending her back to Puerto Rico.
Papa is Esperanza’s father. Many of the men in the neighborhood are abusive to their children and wives, but he is rather quiet and keeps to himself. Esperanza wants more for herself than Mango Street and perhaps it is because she was not abused by her father as the other women in the neighborhood were.
Papa shows her softer side when his father dies in Mexico, and he tells Esperanza that she will have to deliver the news to her siblings. He cries for the first time that Esperanza has ever seen, and she comforts him.
Mama is Esperanza’s mother. Mama is very intelligent, artistic, and handy around the house, though she dropped out of school at a young age. Mama tells Esperanza that she cannot let her shame of being poor hold her back from life because Mama stopped going to school when she was embarrassed for the shabby state of her clothing. Though Mama is a very strong woman who should be a role model to Esperanza she does not consider her mother someone to look up to as she is still on Mango Street, rather than finding a better life elsewhere.
Alicia is an older girl from the neighborhood who befriends Esperanza. Alicia attends college, despite the fact that her father gives her grief for it. Alicia is responsible for taking care of her father and siblings since her mother passed away and manages to do that while studying as well, though she often has to stay up most of the night with her studies as her father does not allow her time to do so.
Alicia hopes to graduate from college and make a better life for herself off Mango Street, which is different from most of the other girls that hope marriage will take them out of the barrio.
Cathy is Esperanza’s very first friend when she moves onto Mango Street. Cathy is quite stuck up and snobby. She and her family move from Mango Street a week after Esperanza arrives so she says she can only be Esperanza’s friend for a week.
Cathy says the reason her family is leaving is because the neighborhood is getting bad, which is a back-handed insult to Esperanza’s people, as Cathy is not Mexican or Latina. Cathy does not want Esperanza to be friends with Rachel and Lucy, but Esperanza does it anyway.
Meme Ortiz moves into Cathy’s house after her family moves out. Meme is really named Juan, though everyone calls him Meme and he has a dog that has both Spanish and English names. Meme has a big tree in his backyard that the neighborhood has a Tarzan jumping contest from. Meme is the winner of the Tarzan contest, though he breaks both of his arms in the process.
The Vargas Children
The Vargas children are a family of very poorly behaved children that are raised only by their mother as their father abandoned them and left no money to care for them. Esperanza tries to keep Nenny away from the Vargas kids as they are a bad influence. One of the Vargas children, Angel, dies in an accident resulting from reckless behavior.
Minerva is just a couple of years older than Esperanza, but her living situation is much different, though are somewhat alike in their interests. Minerva is married with two children and her husband often leaves her for long stretches of time, only to be welcomed back by Minerva despite the fact that he often goes into rages and beats her. Minerva, like Esperanza, writes poetry, and the two girls often share their poetry with one another.
Sire is the boy that Esperanza has her first crush on. Esperanza’s parents do no approve of Sire, or his girlfriend Lois, and want Esperanza to steer clear. Sire stares at Esperanza all the time, and she tries to avoid his gaze, though she notices it, and she walks right by without making eye contact.
Esperanza envies Lois because she gets to spend time with Sire all the time, as she wishes she were the one sitting out on the porch steps with Sire at night with their arms around one another.
Mamacita is the wife of one of the men in the neighborhood. Mamacita was brought to America by her husband, but against her will as she wants to go back to Mexico and refuses to learn English. Mamacita stays in her bedroom starting out the window all the time while she listens to Spanish radio. Many people say she stays upstairs because she is too fat to come down, but Esperanza believe she does not come out of the house because it is difficult to live in a world when you do not speak the language. Mamacita feels betrayed by her son when he learns to speak English.
Earl is a man who lives in the neighborhood and is rarely seen by anyone, especially the children. Earl works nights as a jukebox repairman and sometimes comes out during the day to yell at the children for making too much noise when he is trying to sleep, though sometimes he gives them old jukebox records.
Everyone in the town says Earl has a wife who stays in the house, though they all describe her differently. It turns out that Earl has many different girlfriends coming in and out of his house.